A smart watch, a backup home generator, sound-proof windows, a Nintendo Wii, and a driveway – what do all of these things have in common? Each is assistive technology for the person who requested it.
What is assistive technology, anyway? At PATF, our answer is this:
Any device that helps a person with a disability do the things they want to do.*
That means, as an organization that provides financial loans for assistive technology, we get requests to fund all kinds of things! In honor of National Assistive Technology Awareness Day (#ATAwarenessDay), here are just a few requests we’ve received that may seem unusual at first glance:
- Smart watch – A woman with an intellectual disability was experiencing anxiety during her daily bus commute to work. For her, a smart watch with a mindfulness app that reminds her to breathe is assistive technology – it helped her successfully commute to work.
- Backup home generator – A woman with an auto-immune condition lived in an area where she was experiencing regular power outages. She relied on a ventilator for oxygen 24/7, and, because of the safety hazard connected with using her gas stove, she cooked using a single coil electric stove top. For her, a backup home generator was assistive technology – it helped her live safely at home.
- Sound-proof windows – A man with a physical disability had set up a home office in his downtown Philadelphia apartment. However, the noise from the street was so distracting he was having a hard time concentrating to get his work done. For him, sound-proof windows were assistive technology – they helped him work effectively.
- Nintendo Wii – A woman with multiple sclerosis (MS) and agoraphobia used exercise to help stave off the symptoms of MS, but she had trouble getting out the door to go to the gym or go for a walk. For her, a Nintendo Wii was assistive technology – it helped her exercise reliably and comfortably.
- Driveway – A young man with a physical disability used a modified van to get out in the community (he particularly loved bowling). The state of his driveway was becoming nearly impassable with the low clearance of his van. For him, a new driveway was assistive technology – it made it possible for him to get out in the community.
Some assistive technology is developed to fill a disability-specific need (like a hearing aid for someone who has hearing loss); other assistive technology is considered “generic” technology because it is marketed to the general public (like an Amazon Alexa or other smart personal assistant which could be used by people with a range of disabilities for independence at home). Assistive technology comes in all shapes and sizes, what matters most is what you are able to do with it.
For real-life stories of people using assistive technology to do the things they want to do, check out our photo contest entries from Assistive Technology Awareness Month last November, as well as our success stories page.
*The federal definition of assistive technology under the Assistive Technology Act is “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”
At PATF, we believe that access to assistive technology is equally as important as the things you can do with it – because assistive technology is only helpful if you can actually get it. Check out our guide, Funding Your Assistive Technology: A Guide to Funding Resources in Pennsylvania for more information on funding resources for AT, or contact us if you’re not sure how to pay for the tech you need – we’re Pennsylvania’s funding experts!